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In 1941-42, Starving the Nazis of Oil Was More Important than Holding Moscow


One of the great mistakes of Adolf Hitler's war policy was its over-reliance on oil for its "War of Movement," especially as there was no easy way for Germany to ensure reliable oil supplies. 

This problem later came to shape German military policy, most noticeably with the 1942 offensive towards Stalingrad and the Caucasus, where the Soviet oilfields were located. However, the Soviets were well aware of this weakness from the start, as we see in this little-known speech delivered to the Supreme Defence Council in Moscow sometime in November 1941, before the Red Army launched a limited counter-offensive to recapture the city of Rostov, an important point on the road to the Caucasus:

"If Germany succeeds in taking Moscow, that is obviously a grave disappointment for us, but it by no means disrupts our grand strategy Germany would gain accommodation, but that alone will not win the war. The only thing that matters is oil. As we remember, Germany kept harping on her own urgent oil problems in her economic bargaining with us from 1939 to 1941. So we have to do all we can (a) to make Germany increase her oil consumption, and (b) to keep the German armies out of the Caucasus. The immediate task of the Red Army is to throw the Germans back just far enough to destroy the caches of tanks and ammunition they had built up for their intended offensive into the Caucasus.
Kriegstagebuch, First Panzer Army, Annex N63/53, quoted in D. Irving, Hitler's War (London: Focal Point, 1991); first published in 1976), p.437.

On 29 November, after their forces recaptured Rostov, Timoschenko and Khrushchev issued an order to the troops of the Southwest Front, which again the keen Soviet awareness of the oil issue:

The armoured bloodsucker von Kleist attacked in the direction of Rostow and the group under Schwedler moved toward Woroschilowgrad in the devious enemy's attempt to break the resistance of the units of the Red Army, to capture the Don basin and Rostow, and to make his way to the grain stores of the northern Caucasus and the oil wells of Grosnij and Baku ... [However,] in several days of bloody fighting, the units of the Red Army ... have dealt the enemy mighty blows, destroyed his best regiments and divisions, and plunged the remnants of the [Panzer] Group von Kleist, the select dogs of the deranged German fascists, into incurable misery.
Quoted in Lehmann, Leibstandarte Vol.II, p.180.


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